After so many years of doing henna and natural herbs for hair, and getting all sorts of questions, I really felt we could use a good post on common mistakes and errors, when it comes to henna for hair (and herbs). We’ve included some amazing tips that everyone should know.
This list will never be complete, and we’ll need all of you to help add to it. Henna and natural hair care is all about being open, having a good vibe, being natural, and accepting each and every recipe as special, and unique to every person.
- Henna is a plant, not a chemical, or ink. Henna is a natural plant, and it grows in very hot climates. As a natural plant it makes only one color: orange-reddish tones. Plants don’t give us more then one color. Typically blueberries stain blue, just as henna stains red. Commercial boxes of henna will tell us they are henna “colors”, but in fact they are pre-mixed boxed of henna that contain other herbs, and ingredients (sometimes even chemicals, additives, or metallic salts). It’s also not an ink. Henna powder is mixed into a henna paste, which can be used to dye your hair (permanent until it grows out), or to create henna body art designs (temporary) on the skin. Please read our recipes and how to’s section to find out how.
- Henna colors, is this possible? A lot of commercial boxed henna hair dyes will have a variety of colors available. Natural and 100% pure henna only dyes orange-reddish tones. Please always read the list of ingredients on the boxes you purchase, or just purchase 100% pure henna powder from a reliable supplier.
- Henna will not lighten your hair tone. Henna is a chemically-free all natural hair dye. It doesn’t contain chemicals, or bleaching ingredients that would lighten your hair.
- Neutral Henna. Cassia obovata is sometimes called neutral henna, but in fact it is another plant that has a low yellow dye molecule, that can color grey, light, and blond hair. On dark hair, cassia obovata will not usually show any color. Using cassia obovata will give you all the benefits of henna, but it does have to be done a bit more often, as the results are not as long term as henna is.
- Black Henna. Indigo is sometimes called black henna, but this is yet another plant that will color the hair brown to black tones (must be used with henna to give these results). Indigo does not have dye release the same way that henna does, so it must be mixed and used right away, or within 15-20 minutes. Please make sure your indigo does not contain PPD, which is can be quite damaging to the hair, and skin.
- If I use henna I won’t ever be able to use chemical dyes/treatments on my hair. As long as you use 100% pure henna powder, then yes you can use chemical dyes/treatments as you normally do. You won’t have to wait months to do your chemical treatments/dyes as the hair dresser would like to tell you. Keep in mind, that the hair industry is run by major companies that push all types of chemical products. They are in no way trained, or specializing in henna, and natural hair care (for the most part). You should give your hair a break in between treatments. Roughly about 1-2 weeks.
How much henna do we need to use for our hair? No, you don’t need 500 grams of henna powder to color (treat) bra strap length (BSL) hair. First thing that needs to be asked is, how long is your hair, and secondly, how thick is your hair. Those are questions that need to be answered first in order to access how much henna powder you’ll need. You also don’t want to spend more money on products then you have to.
General speaking, shoulder length hair needs about 100 grams of powder, bra strap length about 200-250 grams, hip length about 300-350 grams, and so on.
- Should I use lemon juice in my recipe? No, you don’t have to use lemon juice as your primary, and only liquid ingredient in your henna (herbal) hair recipe. So many people would have turned away and abandoned henna and natural herbal hair care, if they thought they could only use lemon juice. Lemon juice is acidic, and can be very drying on your hair. You can add a small splash of lemon juice, if you’d like. We usually add a bit of lemon juice. The most highly recommend liquid to use is warm water. You can even use tea (any variety of your choice), or coffee brews as well (for dryer scalps be careful with these as they can also be a bit drying). Chamomile tea has become quite popular to use in henna hair recipes.
- Is henna a temporary hair dye? No, henna is not temporary. It is a permanent hair dye. Henna alone only dyes orange-red tones. The only way to remove it is to let it grow out, or cut your dyed hair. That is why it is always recommended you do hair strand tests before making the “full head” committment.
- Can henna, and herbs for hair be drying? Yes they can be drying. If you have a dry scalp, then you will need to moisturize. You can add moisturizing oils, yoghurt, or a conditioner to your henna recipe, or use a good hair oil after your herbal hair treatment.
- Does henna lock out moisture? Some people believe that because henna coats the hair strand that no amount of moisturization can reach it. In fact no, henna will not lock out moisture from your hair. Oil, and condition your hair as usual, and as needed. The results will be amazing, and your hair will get all the moisturization it needs.
- Using a metal bowl, or spoon is it safe or not? When using pure henna powder (body art quality), and herbs for hair, you can use stainless steel bowls. Traditionally, they have used iron bowls, as it has shown to bring our more dye release. We typically use a spatula to mix it. We don’t usually use plastic bowls because they are porous, and the herbs will stain the bowl. The commercial boxes of henna, and henna “colors” that contain other ingredients, herbs, additives, metallic salts, etc..would more so cause reactions with metal bowls, then 100% pure herbs would.
- Can henna loosen my curl pattern? Yes, a lot of people have seen loosening effects of their curls when using henna and/or cassia obovata. There is a small percentage of people that don’t get any loosening of their curls. If you prefer to maintain some of your curl, then add amla powder to bring them back. Keep in mind, that amla powder also tones down the red of henna. You can also use amla powder in your henna/cassia recipe to maintain the curls in your hair, in case you don’t want to lose your curl pattern.
- So many henna powders. How do I choose? Keep in mind that some henna companies do re-name their henna powders, and this causes more confusion then necessary. The basic, and most important information would be which country is the henna from, how fresh is it (current crop year is best), and how well sifted is it? Please read: How to Choose the Right Henna Powder. There is no henna for a particular race or culture. Henna doesn’t discriminate. It is for everyone to use. If you were to say that a particular henna powder is very well sifted and therefore better to use on curly or african hair, then that we’d understand. But giving a henna powder a new name, is just for marketing purposes. If your henna comes marked with Jamila henna powder in red writting in any format on the foil packaging, then that henna is Jamila henna powder, not any other generic name that it has been re-named. Please read more on Jamila Henna.
- Body Art Quality: What does that mean? This is another marketing term that basically means 100% pure henna powder. This pure henna powder is safe enough to use for body art, and most likely finely sifted. Body Art Quality can’t apply to any of the other herbs we use on our hair, because that would mean we are using these herbs for body art, and we aren’t. They are being used for hair usage. Make sure you get yourself 100% pure henna, and herbs. Getting organic herbs is even better because you are guaranteed that the company/farm has gotten proper certification, and inspection that there are no pesticides used, and is an overall healthier, and safer product.
- My katam/indigo didn’t work for me. Indigo and Katam should be mixed separately from the henna paste in its own bowl. These are herbs that require a little more care, and their own time for dye release alone. Allow indigo and katam to sit 20-30 minute. You can then add the indigo/katam paste into the henna paste (bowl) for brown tones. Should you be using indigo for black tones you can use this after you’ve first done your henna treatment. Do not allow indigo to sit out for more then an hour.
Tips that work!
- Putting henna (and any herbs) onto damp hair really helps it go on much easier. Also applying indigo onto damp hair (with a dash or so of salt) has gotten the indigo to absorb better and give even darker, richer black color results.
- Adding sugar to your recipe makes the henna paste smoother.
- Pre-oil your hair, if you tend to get really dry when using henna, and herbs in your hair. This will give you the moisture boost you need. This also helps prevent dripping when dyeing your hair. Some of the best hair oils to use are olive oil, coconut oil, argan oil, and camellia oil.
- In order to get deeper, richer red results use a good, fresh henna powder that is known for giving rich red results (such as yemeni henna). After 2-3 applications, the color will deepen further.
- Wash your henna, and herbal hair treatments out really well. Use a lot of conditioner to help with the process. If you don’t wash it all out well, then your scalp will feel itchy, and gritty.
- Rmemeber to always be opened minded, and if needed, adjust your recipe to suit your hair. Just because someone else does it, doesn’t always make it right for you.
- Keep your recipe simple. Don’t get overwhelmed with a lot of the other ingredients that are added to recipes.